The goals of physical therapy are to improve mobility, increase the range of motion, and reduce pain of physical therapy patients.
Physical therapy patients may have developed limitations in movement, disabilities, or impairments due to accident, amputations, or injury. Some physical therapy patients receive treatment for disabilities that they have had all their lives.
Physical therapy patients can be any age. The elderly often have reduced mobility from a variety of medical conditions and a lack of physical activity. A doctor may prescribe physical therapy treatment for conditions like Parkinson’s disease that impairs the patient’s ability to walk.
When children receive physical therapy, the treatment sessions may appear like playtime. The physical therapist uses toys such as balls, blocks, or puzzles to encourage the child to move in a particular way. These movements may help increase strength, endurance, and coordination in children who have impairments affecting their ability to move.
After surgical amputations of toes or legs as is common with diabetes, the surgeon is likely to recommend physical therapy. These physical therapy patients may need to learn to use prosthetic legs. Whether the amputee patient had toes removed or is learning to use prosthetic legs, the physical therapy patients may have treatments that focus on balance, endurance, and strength.
Joint replacements may be followed up with physical therapy sessions. The physical therapy patients who are recovering from joint replacements may begin their therapy as soon as the day after surgery. Some doctors believe that strengthening the muscles after a joint replacement drastically improves the function of the replacement joint.
Back pain is a common problem that is treated with physical therapy. Doctors may refer patients with low back pain to a physical therapist to see if the patient’s condition will improve before considering surgical options. Possible treatments for physical therapy patients with lower back pain include traction, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation. A large percentage of people with herniated discs can avoid surgery with physical therapy.
For certain conditions like those affecting the back and neck, proper posture is important for reducing symptoms. The physical therapist may educate the physical therapy patients on correct posture in order to reduce the patients’ pain. Lifting objects in a way to prevent further injury to the back also may be taught.
Part of the process of this type of medical treatment is educating physical therapy patients in how to exercise and stretch at home to continue to improve their health. The physical therapist also may suggest activities or limitations to help prevent a relapse in the patient’s condition. The therapist may provide physical therapy handouts that describe the suggested exercises and have illustrations or diagrams to help the physical therapy patient perform the exercises correctly at home.